Thursday, December 18, 2014

The “Moderate” One

Now that Jeb Bush is actively exploring running for president, it’s time to remember that there was a time he was considered the true heir to his father’s legacy as the next President Bush.  He was the smart one, the diligent and well-spoken son as opposed to George W, the wastrel that frittered his time away playing with baseball teams and being the goof-off.  If the Bush family was being cast in The Godfather, then Jeb would be Michael and George W would be Fredo.

But the people of Florida didn’t elect Jeb as governor in his first attempt in 1994, and George W got elected in Texas.  Jeb had to wait until 1998 and by then his older brother had already won the hearts of the GOP.  All Jeb had left was to support his brother, win Florida for him in 2000, and settle for being the first Republican to win two terms as governor of Florida.  His time would come; meanwhile he had time to polish his image as a nice, well-spoken, and moderate conservative, unlike his brother who was inarticulate, prone to gaffes, and who populated his administration with hard-core wingnuts like Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft.

But then fate intervened in the name Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was stricken with a heart attack and left in a vegetative state.  Governor Jeb Bush took it upon himself to wrestle the state government into trying to take control of her medical care, going so far as to call the state legislature back into special session to ram through a law to keep her body alive even though no reputable medical professional said it would do any good.

Ms. Schiavo’s husband remembers Gov. Bush all too well.

ThinkProgress spoke with Michael Schiavo and the attorney who represented him in the matter, George Felos, about Bush’s presidential candidacy. Both expressed concern that Bush’s record was one of government interference and opposing individual liberty.

“If you want a government that’s gonna intrude on your life, enforce their personal views on you, then I guess Jeb Bush is your man,” Schiavo explained, adding, “We really don’t need another Bush in office.”

Felos described Bush’s actions interference in Schiavo case as, “An egregious example of the fat hand of government inserting itself into a family’s medical decision and the obtrusive hand of government trying to override their decision.”

[…]

“Through the Dept. of Children and Family Services and through the Department of Law Enforcement they tried in the courts to ignore the higher court pronouncements – this was documented in an article by the Miami Herald,” he recalled, though, “when local authorities said you’re going to have to go through us in order to get her, and the state law enforcement agency backed down.”

Though Bush, then-U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), and social conservative activists protested that Terri Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state, an autopsy confirmed that she had been.

“It’s one thing to have your own personal beliefs,” Felos said, “It’s quite another to use your official powers and your official office to subvert the court and the lawful process.”

[…]

Michael Schiavo, nearly a decade later, said he believes Jeb Bush’s intervention was a purely political move and an act of buffoonery. “If you want a government that’s gonna be intrusive and interfere in your personal life, vote for Bush. If you want to live like that, want people to interfere in your personal lives, then vote for him,” he said.

Mr. Bush will have his own problems in running for the Republican nomination.  He’s vulnerable on immigration reform — he’s in favor of being nice to the undocumented — and he’s a proponent of the Common Core education standards, which is despised by the Tea Party base who think it is some kind of government plot to make America’s children smart enough not to vote for Republicans.  He also has his share of questionable financial dealings that remind people of the most recent GOP candidate.  But his biggest advantage remains that he comes across as a reasonable, nice, and so not Ted Cruz on TV that he could win over even a wavering Democrat who isn’t sure that it’s time for America to elect a black man as president.  Just as charming as Michael Corleone.

Which leads me to Paul Campos’s suggestion for a campaign slogan for Jeb 2016: “In five years the Bush family will be completely legitimate.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Jeb the Explorer

Via TPM:

Bush, in a Facebook note, said that after conversations with his wife he had decided to look into running for president. He also said that in January he will start a leadership political action committee to help look into running for president.

What does “actively explore” even mean?  As opposed to “passively”?  Or just waiting for it to happen?

Steve M looks at the field and the positions that Mr. Bush has taken on immigration and education; positions that run counter to the blatherings of the hard-core base of the party.  Good luck with that.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The 2016 GOP Plan

Apparently the Republican plan to win the White House in 2016 is to talk smack about Hillary Clinton.

At political fund-raisers and party conferences, over intimate dinners and in casual telephone calls, top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are constructing an image of Mrs. Clinton that is relentlessly unappealing: as rusty and unloved, out of step and out of date, damaged and vulnerable.

To win the party’s nomination in a contest over which Mrs. Clinton looms so large, likely candidates are now jockeying to appeal to several overlapping constituencies, including Republican activists who loathe her, donors who respect and fear her fund-raising prowess and party leaders who view her candidacy as a test of their attempts to modernize the Republican brand.

For a candidate to be taken seriously, said Rick Wilson, a Republican consultant, “party leaders need to know that you have a game plan and a path to victory against Hillary.”

Notice there’s nothing in there about how they’re planning to help the economic recovery (from a disaster that their last president largely caused), fix education, immigration, infrastructure, or even address foreign policy issues.  That stuff is for nerds; they’d much rather cackle like a bunch of middle-schoolers.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

He’s Back

Attention Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry and any other Republican who even toyed with the idea of running in 2016:  forget it.  You haven’t got a chance now.

Rick Santorum won primaries and caucuses in 11 states in 2012, coming in a respectable second in the GOP presidential primary season. And Republicans have a history of bestowing their nomination on the next guy in line, usually an also-ran from the last contest.

Yet the former senator from Pennsylvania is rarely mentioned in the already feverish pre-game 2016 chatter among the political commentariat and the donor class.

That’s just the way he likes it. Or so he says.

“America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race,” he said in an interview Tuesday. Santorum added that being underestimated — again — “has given me a lot of latitude.”

His iconic sweater vests will likely make a return appearance. But Santorum 2.0 will be a very different presidential campaign than the one that came from almost nowhere to win the Iowa caucuses in an overtime decision, he vows.

“I get the game,” Santorum said.

I can hardly wait.  What this country really needs is an anti-immigrant gay-bashing Jesus-shouter in power to show the world what’s what.  Yip-yah.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sunday Reading

What About Sherrod Brown? — Michael Kazin the The New Republic looks at the senior senator from Ohio as a possible presidential candidate.

At the risk of seeming ridiculous, I think Sherrod Brown should run for president. I know that, barring a debilitating health problem or a horrible scandal, Hillary Clinton is likely to capture the Democratic nomination. I realize too that Brown, the senior senator from Ohio, has never hinted that he may be tempted to challenge her. “I’m really happy where I am,” he told Chris Matthews last winter, when the MSNBC’s paragon of impatience urged him to run.

Yet, for progressive Democrats, Brown would be a nearly perfect nominee. During his two decades in the House and Senate, he has taken strong and articulate stands on every issue which matters to the party’s broad, if currently dispirited, liberal base. When George W. Bush was in office and riding high, Brown opposed both his invasion of Iraq and the Patriot Act. He has long been a staunch supporter of abortion rights and gay marriage, and is married to Connie Schultz, a feminist author who writes a nationally syndicated column.

Brown’s true mission, however, is economic: He wants to boost the well-being of working Americans by any means necessary. Brown has been talking and legislating about how to accomplish it for years before Elizabeth Warren left Harvard for the Capitol. During Obama’s first term, he advocated a larger stimulus package, called for re-enacting the Glass-Steagall Act to rein in big banks, and stumped for comprehensive immigration reform. He champions the rights of unions and the power of the National Labor Relations Board and criticizes unregulated “free trade” for destroying manufacturing jobs at home. He also led the charge among Senate Democrats that pressured Obama to drop his plan to appoint Larry Summers to head the Federal Reserve and appoint Janet Yellen instead.

On his lapel, Brown wears a canary pin to honor the workers’ movement that “gave us all food safety laws, civil rights, rights for the disabled, pensions and the minimum wage.” Like the canaries which miners once took with them into the pits to warn them of toxic gas, the pin symbolizes the need to stay on guard against any employers and politicians who threaten those gains.

There are other Democrats—Warren is the best known—who also skillfully combine a politics of economic populism with a commitment to gender equality and civil liberties. But only Brown represents a populous swing state that has voted for the victor in every presidential election since 1960. In both his Senate races, Brown faced well-known and well-financed Republican opponents—and creamed them. In 2006, his unexpected 12-point margin over Mike DeWine was aided, in part, by the anti-Bush wave that gave Democrats control of Congress. Still, DeWine was a two-term incumbent who had been elected previously by landslides. In 2012, Brown faced Josh Mandel, the popular young state Treasurer. After what became that cycle’s most expensive Senate race, Brown won by six points. He outpolled Barack Obama in Ohio by over 160,000 votes.

Brown’s success, like that of many politicians who are popular in swing states, relies, in part, on charm. He relishes going to hundreds of town meetings around the state, where he answers any question thrown at him. Whether in public or talking to an interviewer in his office, he comes off as relaxed, witty, curious, and rhetoric-free. Two years ago, when I spoke with him in Washington, we spent so much time talking and laughing about his Ohio predecessors—who included the formidable Mark Hanna, the Republican who, in 1896, pioneered the big-money, mass media national campaign—that we barely had enough time to talk about Brown’s career and policies. I have never enjoyed myself so much with any politician, particularly one who was, at the time, fighting to keep his seat.

But Brown earns his popularity by refusing to trim his progressive faith or apologize for it. “If you remember who you are,” he told me, “you don’t have to move to the center, wherever the center happens to be at any moment.” He keeps insisting that America will not become a decent society unless the labor movement regains some of its strength and corporations lose a good deal of their power over campaigns and politicians.

Last summer, George Will paid Brown a kind of tribute. “He looks, sounds and acts like a real, as opposed to faculty club, leftist,” wrote Will in a rare moment when he put his irony, if not his hauteur, aside. “Although he is a Yale graduate, he has the rumpled look and hoarse voice of someone who spent last night on Paris barricades, exhorting les miserables to chuck cobblestones at the forces defending property.” Will did have a point when he contrasted Sherrod Brown’s good-natured, steadfast populism with Hillary Clinton’s “risk-averse careerism” and “joyless plod” toward the Democratic nomination.

Ebola and the Embargo — From The Nation, Arturo Lopez-Levy and Foreign Policy in Focus on the cooperation between the United States and Cuba in battling the epidemic and how it might end the embargo against Cuba.

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel once famously said. “And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.”

President Barack Obama should heed his former chief of staff’s advice and not squander the opportunity presented by the Ebola crisis. Political leadership in the White House and the Palace of Revolution could transform a fight against a common threat into joint cooperation that would not only promote the national interests of the two countries but also advance human rights—and the right to health is a human right—throughout the developing world.

Political conditions are ripe for such a turn. Americans strongly support aggressive actions against Ebola and would applaud a president who placed more value on medical cooperation and saving lives than on ideology and resentment.

In the sixth in a series of editorials spelling out the need for a change in US policy toward Cuba, The New York Times called on Obama to discontinue the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program—which makes it relatively simple for Cuban doctors providing medical services abroad to defect to the United States—because of its hostile nature and its negative impact on the populations receiving Cuban doctors’ support and attention in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

“It is incongruous for the United States to value the contributions of Cuban doctors who are sent by their government to assist in international crises like the 2010 Haiti earthquake while working to subvert that government by making defection so easy,” the editorial board wrote. The emphasis should be on fostering Cuba’s medical contributions, not stymieing them.

As Cuba’s international health efforts become more widely known, it’s become increasingly clear how unreasonable it is for Washington to assume that all Cuban presence in the developing world is damaging to US interests. A consistent opening for bilateral cooperation with Cuba by governmental health institutions, the private sector and foundations based in the United States can trigger positive synergies to update US policy toward Havana. It will also send a friendlier signal for economic reform and political liberalization in Cuba.

The potential for cooperation between Cuba and the United States goes far beyond preventing and defeating Ebola. New pandemics in the near future could endanger the national security, economy and public health of other countries—killing thousands, preventing travel and trade, and choking the current open liberal order by encouraging xenophobic hysteria. At this dramatic time, the White House needs to think with clarity and creativity.

Slipping Away — John Lahr in The New Yorker recalls his last lunch with Mike Nichols.

“Shall we Esca?” Mike asked me late this September, making our lunch date sound like a dance, which, in a way, it always was. When I walked into the Ninth Avenue watering hole where we’d meet a few times a year to talk show biz, he was already seated at the back of the restaurant—his table, of course—having been delivered by a chauffeur, who remained outside to whisk him to his next port of call at any time. Mike didn’t talk about his medical issues, but his body told the story. His tall, robust frame was shrunken now; he’d lost weight but not his appetite for life or conversation. (He was planning a Broadway production of Terrence McNally’s “Master Class” in February, starring Meryl Streep.) Nichols was a great raconteur, bringing to his stories both his swiftness of mind and the gift for mimicry that had made him famous as one half of the glorious high-wire improvisational-comedy act Nichols and May. Even as I write this, I can see Mike’s eager eyes, his smile starting to form, and hear his laugh, which could start as a ripple and end as a wave that left him in shuddering, eye-watering, wheezing, red-faced collapse.

At our lunch, which was the last time I saw him, Nichols talked about befriending Marlon Brando when he first got to Hollywood. “We were bullshitting one night, and I said to him, I asked him what it felt like when he first came to Hollywood and he was master of the universe. And he laughed, and he said something like, ‘Oh, honey, I was so busy trying not to go crazy I never noticed it all.’ ” We wandered into talk about his début Broadway play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park.” “I was immediately mature and experienced,” he told me, and he recalled the adjustment he gave to Robert Redford when he complained about being upstaged by Elizabeth Ashley, who was raising her leg when they kissed. “ ‘I feel like I’ve been used. I’m embarrassed,’ Redford said. And I said, ‘Why don’t you do it too?’ So he did and it got a huge laugh.” “And she stopped?” I asked. Nichols looked down his long nose, “Of course.” Mike was a repository of great knowledge about audiences and actors and the art of storytelling. He had lived a tempestuous life, which included a breakdown and four marriages; he had also achieved happiness, so his observations on people and problems were astute. We had planned a book together, but during the summer he’d withdrawn because, he said, he had neither the energy nor the memory for the task. Over the years, we’d talked of performance, and shows, and directors, and literature, but that afternoon, as he polished off his plate of sorbets, Nichols strayed into an area he’d never before mentioned. It startled me. I wrote it down in my notebook as a piece of wisdom that I didn’t want to forget. “I’m slipping away,” he said. “ I’ve decided to make friends with it.”

He drove me uptown. As we parted, I waved and said, “Next time lunch is on me.”

Doonesbury — Take the money and run.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sunday Reading

Saturday Mornings at Ten — Mary Norris fondly remembers calling in to “Car Talk.”

For years, “Car Talk” has served as the Saturday-morning cartoons of my adult life. If I am home, I turn on the radio at ten, and I don’t turn it off until I’ve wasted another hour listening to Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, and heard the complete list of fake staff members: Marge Inaverra, the bookkeeper; Pickup Andropov, the Russian chauffeur. If I am leaving on a trip, I time my departure so that I can listen in the car. Like Tom, the older of the Magliozzi brothers, who died this week at the age of seventy-seven, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, I like to drive with the windows open.

Click and Clack stopped making new shows a few years ago, but the best segments of old shows are still on the air, and “Car Talk” still sounds fresh to me. Maybe, like Tom, I have a touch of Alzheimer’s. (Ray was the first to make a joke about how his brother really did not remember last week’s puzzler.) I follow “Car Talk” on Facebook, where they post pictures of eccentric cars sent in by fans. I wish I had sent them my shot, taken in Howard Beach, of the car in the shape of an avocado before someone else did. There’s also a funny-sign contest. I could have sent in “ASS COLLECTION,” the segment of crawl on the L.E.D. sign outside an optical shop in Rockaway that you see only if you’re stopped at the red light at exactly the right moment (“DESIGNER SUNGL … ASS COLLECTION”).

I called “Car Talk” for advice once about my ’85 Ford Escort, which I had dubbed the Death Trap. It had a lot of problems, number one being that it was so rusty that parts were always snapping off, but the car was always cheaper to fix than to replace. Sometimes, it would just be dead on arrival: that is, on my arrival at wherever I had parked it to try to start it up and go someplace. I suspected a bad connection—if I opened the hood and took off my shoe and whacked the engine, sometimes it started. Success depended on the style of shoe. When that didn’t work, I’d call AAA (not to be confused with A.A.), and they’d send a tow truck, and the driver would shake his head and say that a jump would not take me very far, and then he’d tow the car to some cavernous garage on the far West Side, near the car pound, and the mechanics would fleece me for the cost of a new battery and an alternator.

It wasn’t easy to get on “Car Talk,” I discovered. I was not put through to Click and Clack at Car Talk Plaza. Instead, I was instructed to leave my name and number and a brief description of my problem. The calls were prearranged—no doubt by their producer, Doug (Bongo Boy) Berman—but the guys heard the problems for the first time on the air. I soon realized that my problem was nowhere near entertaining enough for “Car Talk.” I was competing with the guy in Brooklyn who parked on the street in a car that drove only in reverse. And the woman in Colorado who was looking for a used stretch limousine so that she could roll up the window between the driver and the passengers and not have to listen to her grandchildren bickering. And the woman in Maine, or somewhere, who drove to the grocery store, parked and locked her car, did her shopping, and only when she came back out to load the groceries into the car saw that there was a rat in it. Eek!

But the idea of calling Click and Clack had the same effect as drafting a letter to Ann Landers: it was enough to make me figure things out for myself. Obviously, I should get rid of the Escort before it got rid of me. My next car was a 1990 Honda Civic—not the most boring car on the road, according to Tom and Ray (that distinction was reserved for the Toyota Corolla)—and my problem with it was not the car but the mechanics. Informed through the mail that I had an unpaid parking ticket, I requested a copy of the original summons, and, sure enough, the ticket was acquired while the car was in their hands. One of the mechanics must have been running an errand (a test drive?) and parked the car illegally somewhere I had no reason to go. What do you do when your mechanics stiff you with a parking ticket? Do you confront them? Or do you shut up and pay?

I paid the ticket and kept the mechanics, and my local stand-ins for Click and Clack (decidedly not educated at M.I.T.) never overcharged me, even though they knew I loved that car and would spend any amount of money on it. I think they loved the car, too. Once, when I picked it up, I found in the back seat a gift of men’s cologne from Lacoste, the company with the crocodile insignia (or is it an alligator?). It was shortly after Valentine’s Day, and I hypothesized that the second-generation mechanic had received it from a girlfriend while on a date in my car. Should I return it? Why? He obviously didn’t want it or he wouldn’t have left it there. Regift it to a friend with a February birthday, without telling him of its provenance? That seemed slightly cynical, but better than the more forthright “Happy Birthday! My mechanic left this in my back seat.”

I wonder what Tom would think of the new speed limit in New York City: twenty-five miles per hour unless posted otherwise. “Whaddya kidding?” he’d say. “You’d be lucky to get a car up to twenty-five miles per hour on the streets of New York City!” And then the laugh.

Tom will drive off into the November afternoon today as Ray does a show in his memory. The Best of “Car Talk” will play on, like the classic it is.

Now What? Steve Coll on what the president can do with two more years.

The Republicans won a clean technical knockout against a hamstrung opponent, but they pranced as if they’d walloped Joe Louis in his prime. Party spokesmen described the victory as a referendum on Obama’s failed leadership. That was spin, yet Obama does deserve much of the criticism he has taken for his party’s defeat. Before the midterms, amid public scares over Ebola and ISIS, approval of the President’s performance sank. He was late to lead in these crises and he failed to inspire swing voters with his successes: for one, his Administration is presiding over the fastest-growing economy in the industrialized world.

Now Obama seems at risk of running out his time in office by accepting dutifully the shrinking boundaries of his Presidency. Last Wednesday, at a press conference in the East Room, he spoke about how, even without congressional support, his Administration might yet improve customer service at government offices—an aspiration so small that it would sound sad if voiced by a mayor of Topeka. Asked about being called a lame duck, Obama replied, “That’s the label that you guys apply.” He outlined a modest legislative agenda that might be pursued with Republican coöperation, if such a thing could be obtained: infrastructure spending that would create high-paying jobs, a raise in the federal minimum wage, and programs to expand early-childhood education and to make college more affordable.

In private, Obama and his aides are discussing a different agenda, one that could be achieved without Congress, through regulation and executive orders, such as the ones he has already signed to raise the minimum wage for federal contract workers and to triple the government’s use of renewable energy. Separately, the E.P.A. has proposed to reduce carbon emissions from electricity plants by thirty per cent before 2030, which could hasten the country’s transition away from coal, if the regulations are seen through. In the aftermath of the Ferguson crisis, civil-rights groups have pressed the White House to order the Justice Department to end racial profiling in federal law enforcement. And the President is reportedly considering two exceptionally bold ideas: to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay and to temporarily normalize the legal status of undocumented immigrants who have been living and working here for years. These proposals would require enormous political tenacity, but would greatly elevate Obama’s legacy.

[…]

Last week, McConnell said that if Obama acted unilaterally he would so inflame Republicans that it would be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Obama’s choice of sports metaphor involved basketball. He’s playing in the fourth quarter, he said, but “the only score that matters” is how he serves the American people. The President has always preferred to win his points through legislative process. Bill Clinton, who faced Republican majorities in both houses of Congress for six of his eight years in office, signed three hundred and sixty-four executive orders; Obama has signed a hundred and ninety-one. The reality now is that either Obama outruns McConnell’s bulls or he waddles down Pennsylvania Avenue like a certain duck.

 Why Not Al Franken?  Charlie Pierce thinks he’d make a great president.

Brother Dave Weigel points out that Al Franken ran a populist campaign for re-election — straight, no chaser. His ads were direct, and their message was impressively disciplined. (It also helped that the Republicans ran the perfect foil for Franken’s message, a guy who makes Willard Romney look like Henry Wallace.) If you’re looking for a way to do this, Franken and his people have written the primer. So here’s what I’m thinking — why don’t we hear Franken’s name bandied more about as a Democratic presidential possibility in 2016? I suspect that the chances of Martin O’Malley, Esquire’s Favorite Politician ™, rather cratered the other night when his lieutenant governor got whipped, largely because he was a terrible candidate, but also because he was lieutenant governor under, ahem, Martin O’Malley. Senator Professor Warren doesn’t want to run, even though the most compelling conclusion to be drawn from the blasted landscape of the Democratic campaign is that running away from her particular economic message is disastrous, no matter where you happen to be running. Franken showed through his campaign how you embrace the themes on which Warren has based her career in the context of a political campaign.

Since arriving in the Senate, Franken clearly has made the decision to be a workhorse, and not a show pony, which was something that his friend and mentor, the late Paul Wellstone, once told me was the first decision any new senator has to make. You can’t run for president without showing a little show pony. Maybe he doesn’t want to do that. But given the choice between the coronation of Hillary Clinton, and the suddenly desiccated range of options, it’s hard not to see a space for Franken to run. Hell, back in the day, he even wrote a novel about a Franken Presidency. Was he kidding on the square? Good enough? Check. Smart enough? Check. The fact that this would cause Bill O’Reilly’s head to detonate in a gorgeous orange fireball is merely a bonus.

Doonesbury — Tobacco states.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Shiny Objects

Following up on the previous post…

upyernoz on Ted Cruz’s tantrum over the Supreme Court’s non-decision on marriage equality:

This is the first time I have seen the term “judicial activism” for not issuing a judicial decision. So now the decision not to engage in an activity is “activist.”

I get what Sen. Cruz is up to, though.  This will be part of his campaign for the presidency and once he’s over gay marriage and the Supreme Court, he’ll find another shiny object to freak out about.  He knows that his base has the attention span of an Irish setter, so he has to come up with something every other day to be outraged about.

A year ago it was Obamacare, then later it was immigrant children, followed by ISIS.  Next week, who knows; there’s plenty to choose from: Benghazi!, the IRS, the latte salute, playing golf, Michelle forcing us to drink water, eating dessert with a salad fork.

Republicans are never happy unless they’re trashing their shorts about something every day, and they go through their life like they have gallstones.  What a miserable way to live.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cruz Is Running

As if it’s a big surprise, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is planning to make it official.  Via the National Journal:

According to sources close to the Texas senator, Cruz could be preparing for an end-of-year announcement and is now dedicating considerable time and effort to cultivating a foreign-policy foundation that might help his candidacy stand out in what is guaranteed to be a crowded field.

“At this point it’s 90/10 he’s in,” one Cruz adviser said. “And honestly, 90 is lowballing it.”

It’s always risky to make predictions about elections this far out, but when you have a candidate that is that far-out, it’s easy: if the fates have a twisted sense of humor and let him get all the way to the nomination, he’s going to make the Goldwater campaign of 1964 look like a squeaker.  The only candidate he could possibly beat is Teddy the Wonder Lizard, and that would be because the voters couldn’t tell one Ted from the other.

I’d give Rick Santorum a better chance.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Danger of Foregone Conclusions

It’s only September before a mid-term election; the ads for this one are barely up and running, and already we’re getting inundated with speculation and prognostication about the election that’s coming up after this one.  And it’s all about just one candidate.

The reader may be surprised to learn that Clinton did not reveal her 2016 plans to a reporter on a ropeline. Nor to the other reporter who asked. Actually, it appeared as though Clinton was following the plan of every other 2016 candidate—pacing herself before the midterms, making a decision after them. It’s almost unheard of to announce a presidential run before the previous cycle’s midterms are over, and the only guy who’s broken that recently was Mike Gravel, who did not become the nominee.

So, how to interpret Joe Scarborough’s rant about Hillary and imperial frontrunners? Scarborough wonders (in September 2014) if Clinton is blowing it already, because in 2008 “it wasn’t against her back was against the wall that she had to stop acting like a robot on the campaign trail and start acting like herself that she started winning.” (Again, it’s September 2014.)

The Villagers and those who enable them have all decided that not only is Hillary Clinton running for president, she’s already won the primaries, delivered her acceptance speech, vetting a VP candidate within an inch of his life (my money is that it will be a Hispanic male), and is settling in to go over cabinet choices and Oval Office decor.  So with that over and nothing else to do for the next two and half years, they have to write something — anything — and they’ll find every nit to pick, debate wardrobe choices, hair styles, and glasses.  The more serious ones will chase every dead-end leak about Benghazi! and use up air on Fox wondering what she will do to keep Bill under control while she rules the world; have they tried Invisible Fence yet?

When Hillary Clinton says she hasn’t made up her mind to run yet, I take her at her word.  She’s either amused by all the cat-and-laser-pointer antics the press goes through every time she shows up at an event, knowing that once she announces one way or another, the waiting will be over and the attention level will drop off like the second season of Under The Dome.

I’ll give her this much: she knows how to tease it out, and Joe Scarborough’s rant just plays right into it; her press secretary should send him candy.  (Yes, she’s got me doing it, too.  Well played, Ms. Clinton.)  But then, it wouldn’t surprise me either if she wakes up some morning in February 2015 and decides “who needs this shit?”

HT to Anne Laurie.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Threepeat

Mitt Romney is being all coy about it, but you know he’s dying to run again.

“Circumstances can change, but I’m just not going to let my head go there,” he said during an interview on the “The Hugh Hewitt Show” radio program.

Well, why not?  It’s not like he’s got anything better to do.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Road To Oblivion

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is thinking about running for president but won’t decide until after the mid-terms.

Not that he would take my advice, but if I sincerely were to offer it, I would tell him not to even try.  He didn’t help Mitt Romney as his VP candidate in 2012 and aside from the fact he’s not particularly ugly, he offers nothing in new ideas or dynamics than your average TV infomercial huckster.

He would also seal his reputation as a minor blip on the screen up against such luminaries as Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul in the never-ending saga of GOP debates.  He would come across as the sensible and mild-mannered one, and that’s not what the Republican base is looking for in a president.  They want bat-shit crazy, and he doesn’t cut it in that department.

The cynic in me says go ahead and run, Paul, run.  It’d be fun to watch his campaign sputter and crater.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Look At Me!

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is tired of being ignored.

Bachmann made the revelation during an interview, in which she was asked for her view on whether any Republican women might seek the Oval Office in 2016.

“The only thing that the media has speculated on is that it’s going to be various men that are running,” she replied. “They haven’t speculated, for instance, that I’m going to run. What if I decide to run? And there’s a chance I could run.”

The reason no one in the media is speculating about her is because they’re not unbalanced.  The only reason she would run is because she’s running short on cash, and hubby Marcus is just dying for a new pair of pumps for the fall cotillion season.

Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, and grifters gotta grift.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Don’t Quote Me

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; he must be living under a bridge or something.

The reason is that the politician who campaigned as a straight talker/no bullshit tell-it-like-it-is doesn’t want to end up being quoted.

In an interview on Wednesday on CNBC, Christie reminded viewers how he conducts business: “[O]wn up to what your positions are. Say what they are. If that’s not good enough to win, then you don’t want to govern under those circumstances anyway.”

He then proceeded to repeatedly dodge a series of direct questions posed by the interviewer, journalist John Harwood. Does he support closing the Export-Import Bank? “I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on the Export-Import Bank.” Does he think that people responsible for the financial collapse of 2008 should go to jail? “Things are a lot more nuanced than that.” Are the fines that banks are paying for their role in the collapse appropriate? “I won’t just sit here an opine on things.” Is Hillary Clinton a big government liberal? “I’m not going to get into talking about the Secretary.”

At one point, Christie felt compelled to explain to Harwood why he was avoiding many of his questions. He didn’t want to answer them, he said, unless and until he ran for President. He added that he thought it was “frankly immature to be expressing a lot of those opinions just because I’m sitting here…and you ask.” He told Harwood could “ask whatever you like” but “I don’t have to answer.”

He seemed particularly concerned that his answer would be “on tape” and could be used against him…

Oh, yeah, he’s running for president.  No doubt about it now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

That’s Rich

I imagine some Republican strategists are trying to seize on Hillary Clinton’s inartful comment about personal wealth last week and call her and the Democrats out for being hypocrites: they attacked Mitt Romney for being rich and yet here is a multi-millionaire saying that she’s not “truly well off.”

But that misses the point.  The problem with Mitt Romney wasn’t that he was stinking rich or even that he didn’t get it that most other people don’t have a couple of Cadillacs or a car elevator.  I’ve known people who were heirs to vast fortunes who lived in modest homes, drove cars bought off the lot (one even had a Pontiac 6000 LE Safari station wagon), and taught high school math.  They also spent a lot of time giving their money away to causes that truly needed it more than they did.

The difference between being a rich Republican and a rich Democrat is that most Americans know where they stand on dealing with issues that touch the 47%, and it’s going to be hard to convince them that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t be in favor of raising the minimum wage.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Bitter Little Pill

Shorter Ross Douthat yesterday in the New York Times: “The only way for the Republicans to win in 2016 is if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run.”

He’s so cute when he’s so bitter.  It’s a snarky little piece even for him, unloading on Ms. Clinton’s as-yet unpublished book Hard Choices, where he labels it “chloroform in print” and says the “author” (his use of quotes around “author” implies she staffed out the job) intends to lull the reader into a state of unconsciousness until — ta da! — “the first … female … president” is standing on the steps of the Capitol taking the oath of office and presiding over the last remnants of the Democratic empire just as Franz Joseph did over Austria-Hungary the day before World War I broke out.

I really have no idea what proposals Clinton will run on, what arguments she’ll make. But as with Franz Josef, it’s not her policies that make her formidable; it’s the multitudes that “Hillary” the brand and icon now contains. Academic liberalism and waitress-mom populism and Davos/Wall Street/Bloomberg centrism. Female empowerment and stand-by-your-man martyrdom. The old Clintonian bond with minority voters and her own 2008 primary-trail identification with Scots-Irish whites. And then the great trifecta: continuity with the Obama present, a restoration of the more prosperous Clintonian past and (as the first … female … president) a new “yes we can” progressive future.

Like the penultimate Hapsburg emperor with his motley empire, then, she has the potential to embody a political coalition — its identities and self-conceptions, its nostalgias and aspirations — in ways that might just keep the whole thing hanging together.

But without her, the deluge.

It tells us a lot more about the Republicans’ state of decrepitude if their only hope for success lies in the other party not showing up.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sunday Reading

Moderate This — Jonathan Chait takes on the hurt fee-fees of confused journalists.

The Obama administration, like previous administrations, holds frequent briefing sessions with straight news reporters and opinion journalists, both conservative and liberal. (I don’t recall the Bush administration ever inviting liberal opinion journalists to briefings, but I may be mistaken.) There are some liberal opinion journalists, most of whom generally agree with Obama’s policies.

It’s interesting to try to disentangle the competing strands of liberal ideology (which is a perfectly valid function of opinion journalism) and Democratic partisanship (which, at the very least, is not the same thing), and whether White House access can corrupt or influence their incentives. A National Journal story by James Oliphant, headlined “Progressive Bloggers Are Doing the White House’s Job,” horribly botches the topic by blurring everything together. Hence, Dave Weigel is cited as a prime example of the administration using liberal bloggers as a partisan message vehicle despite the fact that Weigel has not attended such briefings and frequently takes unfriendly stances toward Obama. Likewise, Ezra Klein is cited as both an example of a partisan water-carrier and an independent, truth-to-power-speaker in the same story. It’s a total, incoherent mess.

The way to make any sense of it, I think, is an expression of a certain kind of centrist worldview currently embodied in its most flamboyant form by Oliphant’s colleague, Ron Fournier. The foundation of the Fournier epistemology is the premise that the truth lies somewhere between the positions of the two major American political parties at any given moment. Deviations from that truth can be explained by partisanship or ideology, which Fournier regards as more or less the same thing. In Fournier’s mind, since any expression of non-partisanship is by definition true, any attack on such a claim is by definition partisan, and therefore false.

The Case for Joe Biden’s Candidacy — Peter Beinart in The Atlantic explains that “What the Democratic Party, and the nation, need is a real debate between Hillary Clinton’s interventionism and the vice president’s restraint.”

Although Biden, like Clinton, supported the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, those calamitous wars have instilled in him a new devotion to the cautious realism that men like Scowcroft and Baker exemplify. In 2009, according to Bob Woodward, the then-secretary of state argued passionately for sending 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, at one point pounding her fist on the table and declaring, “We must act like we’re going to win.” Biden, by contrast, didn’t think defeating the Taliban was either possible nor necessary, and argued for a narrower mission focused on al-Qaeda alone. What she feared most in Afghanistan was chaos and barbarism. What he feared most was quagmire.

Biden, according to Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes’s book, HRC, was also skeptical of a Western air campaign in Libya. Clinton supported it. Biden considered the raid on Osama bin Laden too risky. Clinton pushed Obama to go for it. Clinton, perhaps remembering the way her husband’s decision to arm Croat forces helped enable a peace deal in the former Yugoslavia, urged Obama to arm Syria’s rebels. Biden expressed caution once again. “Over the last few years, and especially amid the Arab Spring, events have forced the Obama White House to choose between its prudential instincts and its great ambitions,” Traub writes. “In almost every case Biden has sided with the skeptics.”

It would be a good thing for Democrats, and the country, if the private debate between Biden and Clinton went public. Otherwise, it’s likely that during the campaign Clinton will take stances more hawkish than Obama’s—partly because Ukraine has made hawkishness fashionable again and partly because that’s where her own instincts lie—but barely anyone will notice.

Unless, of course, she confronts the only other major potential candidate likely to stake out a position less interventionist than her own: Rand Paul.

Andy Borowitz on the most important thing Congress can do.

Millions of unemployed Americans who have fruitlessly been looking for work for months are determined that Congress get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi, a new poll indicates.

According to the survey, job-seeking Americans hope that Congress will eventually do something about job creation, but they are adamant that it hold new hearings about Benghazi first.

By a wide majority, respondents to the poll “strongly agreed” with the statement “I would really like to find a job, but not if it in any way distracts Congress from my No. 1 concern: finding out what really happened in Benghazi.”

In related findings, a survey of Americans found that taxpayers overwhelmingly consider Benghazi hearings to be the best use of taxpayer money, well ahead of schools, roads, and infant nutrition.

In the House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner released the following statement: “I want to reassure the American people that, until we have completed our Benghazi investigations, there will be absolutely no action on job creation, infrastructure, immigration, education, housing, or food.”

Doonesbury — Art critic.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Of Course It’s About Her

As several commenters noted, the GOP’s new-found interest in Benghazi! is all about getting at Hillary Clinton and undermining her run for president in 2016.

Even George F. Will knows that, and if he does, then so does everyone else.

I don’t know why any Democrat would want to participate in this. By boycotting it this obviously becomes a redundant and obviously partisan Republican exercise. It’s only a matter of time before Democrats raise the following question: would there be a select committee if it didn’t want to have to power to subpoena the former Secretary of State, obviously for reasons pertaining to presidential politics.

Wait for it: we’re going to get Vince Foster and Whitewater next.